Voter Engagement

Engaging Youth Voters

Since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, one trend has remained constant across all elections: our youngest voters have lower turnout rates than any other age group.

Years of research (see data from CIRCLE at Tuft’s University) reveal a number of ways to support young voters, and the potential solutions are as diverse as the communities served by our YMCAs around the country. That’s where you come in.

The Y is asking youth and adult staff/volunteers to help transform the culture around youth voting in our schools and communities, ensuring the highest possible rates of youth voter turnout and engaging youth voices at all levels of government.

Civic Holidays

Commit to taking part in four national Civic Holidays with the goal of transforming youth participation in your school and community:

  • National Voter Education Week
    Celebrate National Voter Education Week: #VoteReady (Mon.), #MailReady (Tue.), #VotePlanReady (Wed.), #BallotReady (Thu.), and #WeReady (Fri.).
  • Vote Early Day
    Celebrate Vote Early Day by either voting early yourself (if eligible) or taking part in a Vote Early Day effort to help young people cast their ballots before Election Day.

Youth Voter Resources

In addition to the organizations and resources already mentioned, we have also organized an additional list of links and materials to help support your youth voter outreach efforts:

YMCA Youth Voter Inclusion Guide (PDF)
Pre-Registration for Youth Voters | National Conference of State Legislatures
State Registration Info | Rock the Vote
Voter Registration Organizer Toolkit | National Voter Reg. Day
Staying Non-Partisan during Voter Outreach | Non-Profit Vote
Engaging with Candidates | Non-Profit Vote
History of Voting Rights Video & Lesson Plan | TED-Ed

Have a resource you’d like to include on this list? Let us know!

Awards for Youth Voter Registration

As we encourage states to create awards recognizing youth voter registration, many states are already leading the way, providing great examples and templates for other states to follow. If your state has an award that isn’t on this list, please let us know!

Don’t see an award for your state? Contact your state’s Chief Elections Official and advocate for the creation of a youth voter registration award:

Eliza Pickrell Routt Award

Eliza Pickrell Routt was the first First Lady of Colorado and this award was created in her honor. This award is presented to Colorado high schools that have 85% of eligible seniors registered to vote.

Carrie Chapman Catt Award

Named after a founder of the League of Women Voters, schools that register to vote 90% of eligible students receive this award.

Georgia Davis Powers Award

Georgia Davis Powers was the first African-American and woman elected to the Kentucky State Senate. This award is presented to Kentucky high schools that register to vote 75-100% of eligible seniors.

MI Vote Matters Challenge

MI Vote Matters is a partnership of the Michigan Secretary of State and nonpartisan organizations to encourage high schools across the state to hold voter registration drives and earn recognition for their efforts to register a majority of eligible students to vote.

Helen J. Stewart Award

Helen Stewart became the first woman elected to the Clark County School District’s Board of Trustees in 1916. The purpose of the Helen J. Stewart Award is to launch seniors from high school who are poised for civic participation in their community by encouraging voter registration among eligible Nevada high school students. High Schools that register to vote at least 85% of eligible students in the senior class qualify for the award.

Governor’s Civic Engagement Award

The Governor’s Civic Engagement Award is presented by the Pennsylvania Departments of State and Education. The award celebrates the efforts of Pennsylvania high school students to educate, engage and inform their fellow students about how to get involved in the voting process. Schools that register 65-85% of eligible students qualify for this award.

West Virginia
Jennings Randolph Award

Jennings Randolph is the father of the 26th Amendment and the late U.S. Senator from Harrison County, WV. In honor of Senator Randolph’s determination to get young people involved in the voting process, the Secretary of State’s office has created the Jennings Randolph Award. This award is given to high schools that have at least 85 percent of eligible students registered to vote.